News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

NanoBio 2007 Day Two Speaker: Tihamer Toth-Fejel


Tihamer Toth-Fejel is a senior research engineer at General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, member of the advisory board for the Nanoethics Group, and a chair for the Society for Manufacturing Engineers Nanomanufacturing Technical Group.

Toth-Fejel stated that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t make it.” Nanotech needs to follow these guidelines:

  • Accuracy
  • Precision
  • Reliability, repeatability, reproducibility
  • Traceability
  • Calibration
  • Tolerance
  • Quality

Trying to build independent chemical reactions and controlling where they are is very difficult to do. It is also very difficult to connect nanotubes together. Connecting them takes stepwise reactions, and there are a lot of them. We also need molecular actuators. In addition to using probes or tips, one could use pores to force DNA through to place atoms to make nanoactuators.

DNA origami is easy to do and is easily reproducible. The process uses DNA because it has such good molecular recognition properties. One is limited to 7000 base pairs when constructing molecular pictures. Helper strands have a self complimentary region that creates a bump in the strain, if you know the actual sequence of the DNA, and therefore one can write with the bumps to make pictures or words out of a few atoms. These same kinds of ideas can facilitate DNA mediated multistrand nanotube fabrication and metamaterials.

The ultimate goal of building nanomaterials is to build a desktop nanofactory appliance. What if you could “print” up a copy of your computer or another nanofactory? What if you could make diamonds quickly and cheaply and use these diamonds to build skyscrapers up to 300 km up for use as accelerators so you can get out of lower orbit?

Because there is a limited amount of carbon in the world, it is not feasible for everyone to make a nanofactory, especially if the primary source for carbon is CO2 in the atmosphere, government intervention will be necessary. This could require the atmosphere becoming property to better manage this resource.

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